Weekly Roundup, Friday 8 March 2019

An Avro Lancaster and a Boeing B-17. See item below.

Good morning

Happy International Women’s Day.

I’ve been struggling this week to write a review on what, in the opinion of many main stream media reviewers, have now become the very best set of noise cancelling headphones out there.  As longer time readers know, I’ve been reviewing noise cancelling headphones pretty much right since Day One, way back in 2001.

During that time, I’ve reviewed the original Bose Quiet Comfort, and then just about every model subsequently – the Quiet Comfort 2, the QC 5, QC 10, QC 15 and QC 25, as well as countless other makes and models – some more expensive than Bose, and most much less expensive.

While the original Quiet Comfort was disappointing – way too much hiss from the electronics, which Bose told me was unavoidable, all the subsequent models have been good, and in more recent cases, great and the best out there.  The “unavoidable” hiss disappeared, too!

I’ve always been hoping that someone would come along with a better set of headphones than Bose, and at a better price.  Neither has happened, so far, but I keep hoping.

The new Sony headphones seemed to be extremely promising, and have not only been very heavily promoted, but also very widely reviewed, and invariably in the most positive of terms.

Until now.

So, please do enjoy what is a nearly 7,000 word review of the Sony headphones after this short covering weekly newsletter, and see why I couldn’t join the chorus of worshipful praise for these headphones.  Travel Insider supporters get two special extra sections in the review as well, including the mention of the headphones that I currently prefer more than both the latest/greatest Bose and these new Sony headphones, and which cost less than half the price of either.

Last week I had some special extra content for supporters in my Google Fi review as well, and I forgot to explain one very important thing to our very kind supporters.  To access the extra supporter-exclusive content, you need to go to the blog web site, and log into your account, and then view the article on the website, not in the email.  Let me know if you have any difficulties with this.

I also found a great new feature of Google Fi this week.  You can turn on and off the data and/or voice services for any of the phones on your account, instantly, just by changing a setting on your account page.  This was useful when my daughter Anna had to experience a “consequence” from some inattention due to too much focus on her phone earlier in the week!  Not only could I instantly turn things off and then on again, but Google didn’t charge during the short time her phone was off as well.

So, after the huge review, not a lot else.  But here is :

  • Unhappy Fifth Anniversary
  • Atlas Air Crash Update
  • Save a Lancaster
  • A Musk Tunnel in Las Vegas?
  • And Lastly This Week….

Unhappy Fifth Anniversary

Today is the fifth anniversary of the disappearance of the 777 being operated as MH370.  We’ve written about this, on and off, ever since, as have many other people.  There continue to be new theories advanced, and old theories reworked and restated, and cynics would say that of all the strange theories, the strangest one of all, and the one most contradicted by the few facts and little knowledge we have, is the official one.

After what has been described as the world’s most expensive underwater search (and probably also the most extensive) failed to find any trace of the plane where some theories and calculations suggested it had ended up, nothing further has been done.

Strangely, the company that was searching for the plane on the basis of “We’ll search for free, and you only pay us if we find it” did not have their contract renewed to continue searching for the plane.  That surely was a no-brainer can’t-lose deal for the Malaysian government, if they truly did want to find the plane, and it was very puzzling why they didn’t extend the contract.  But one of the common threads that have run through the entire mystery has been the lack of transparency by the Malaysian government as to what truly happened, when, where, and why.

In reality, the plane could have landed or crashed anywhere covering an area about one-third the surface of the entire planet.  Various reports of a plane being spotted at various places that would conform to where the plane could have been at that time have generally been overlooked because they haven’t conformed to the official narrative that had it flying a roundabout route before heading down to run out of fuel and land in the ocean off the coast of West Australia.

We’ve never understood why, if anyone wanted to crash the plane, whether a pilot or terrorist or whoever, they wouldn’t have done so immediately, rather than flying for many hours until it ran out of fuel.  If you’re wanting to crash the plane and don’t have a specific objective to crash into, then surely you’d want to do so urgently quickly in case you were overpowered and lost control, or just in case you lost your nerve/had regrets/whatever.

As we said at the beginning, the strangest of all the possible explanations is the one that is being touted as the official one.

Here’s a summary of five years of mystery.

Atlas Air Crash Update

Happily (if that’s the correct word to use) the Atlas Air/Amazon 767 freighter crash seems less likely to be quite so perplexing a mystery.

Both black boxes have now been retrieved and the data extracted from them.  We are expecting a transcript of the voice recording, which apparently is not in good quality but is reasonably intelligible, next week.  The NTSB has said that its preliminary review of the audio found that 18 seconds before the flight’s blackbox recording ends there were “crew communications consistent with a loss of control of the aircraft.”

We’re not quite sure what that means, or when exactly the recorded ended, and the NTSB does not yet say why the crew may have lost control.  Maybe we’ll know more next week.

Meanwhile, here’s a stunning video that captured the plane’s plunge into the sea.

Save a Lancaster

I mentioned, en passant, in the article last week about Rolls-Royce, how their transformative Merlin airplane engine was used not only in the well-known Spitfire and the more numerous and unfairly under-appreciated Hurricane, but also in the Lancaster bomber.

The Lancaster can be thought of as Britain’s equivalent of the B-17 (ie best known, most loved, most numerous).  The Lancaster actually had fairly similar specifications; in some respects superior (longer range and higher cruising speed, larger bomb load) and in others inferior (much lower ceiling, not as much defensive capability or structural resilience), and we’re not going to get into a discussion (argument!) about which was the superior aircraft.  Suffice it to say that both nations held their respective bombers in very high regard, and to be fair, the B-17 was a much older design nearing the end of its life before being revived with the onset of WW2.  In addition, the two planes were designed for different roles initially, although both ended up in primarily area bombing missions, the B-17 during the day and the Lancaster at night.  If you’d like to know more, this site has an extensive and fair discussion.

The reason for talking about the Lancaster today is that a long time reader and supporter asked if I could mention that currently only two of the 7700+ Lancasters produced remain in flying condition – one in the UK and one in Canada.  There are plans to restore a third one that is at a lovely Air Museum – the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, not all that far south of York and well worth a visit.  They are currently fundraising to continue and complete their restoration project, and would happily accept support in sums as small as a single £1 ($1.35) contribution.  If you’d like to preserve an important part of aviation heritage, I’m sure they’d really appreciate your support.  I know, from my own experiences, that if you only contribute a single pound, almost half of that goes to the credit card company.  If your generosity can stretch to £5 or more, that greatly increases the net amount they receive.

A Musk Tunnel in Las Vegas?

Elon Musk’s “Boring Company” is still searching for a real valid commercial contract to prove their practicality, and it seems they have a good chance of being chosen as an alternative transportation provider by the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The LVCC, already large, has added 200 acres of additional convention space, and needs a way to move people efficiently around the total area.  They figure about 2 miles of travelways are involved.

Surprisingly (perhaps) they’ve costed a Musk-style small tunnel as by far the cheapest option open to them.  It could potentially also extend to the Strip area too, and even the airport, in time.

They hope to have their campus-area 2 mile tunnel system up and running by the end of next year, which seems like a blisteringly fast rate of progress.

Certainly, we have the blisters to confirm the need for some easier way of traveling around the sometimes sprawling shows, but our big concern is the capacity of the tunnel.  The largest shows have immense crowds of people, and for any sort of transport to work, there needs to be close to zero wait, close to zero time needed to get to and from the terminals, fast journey times between stops and great capacity to handle many thousands of people during peak surges.  Otherwise, it is quicker just to trudge the distance rather than detour to a tunnel station, take some sort of conveyance, then go back up to the surface again.

I always find, in London or other cities with Metro/Underground systems, that the two or three minutes it takes to travel between stations on a train is the smallest part of the total journey time.  You have to get to a station, get down to the platform, wait for a train, and then the reverse at the other end.  Even just the between station entry/exit and on/off a train and again at the other end part of a total journey is typically ten minutes in addition to the travel time on the train itself.

We also question how keen the Strip casinos would be to have traffic diverted off the streets and away from their front doors.  On the other hand, the last few times I’ve tried to walk along the Strip I’ve noticed just how congested the sidewalks are, and also how far set back from the sidewalks the entrances to the major casinos are.  So maybe they’d not mind, and definitely there’s a need for improved transport along the Strip, something that has been talked and talked about for a decade or more.

Here’s more about this.

And Lastly This Week….

It was Mardi Gras this week (and the festival of course covered the week or more preceding as well) in New Orleans.  I’ve vivid and happy memories of having attended in past years, and definitely remember the eager competition to grab the thrown beads and other trinkets that were tossed to the crowds from the people on the floats.  For the people on the street, their actions were a bit like what happens when you toss a piece of bread to a flock of pigeons or seagulls – an instant surge of people rushing to grab whatever precious thing it was that was thrown, with lots of aggressive pushing and shoving.

But it seems that many of the beads and other things are treasured items for only a very short period of time.  Here’s a fascinating article about what happens to all the throws.  Headline quote – in just a five block area last year, 93,000 lbs of beads were retrieved from storm water drains.  That’s hard to believe, but that’s what it says, so it must be true, I guess.

I hate the typical “click bait” article on a website that covers an endless number of pages while breathlessly reporting trivial matters in poor English.  But here’s one which, while guilty of the many pages and breathless English, is actually quite interesting.  An amazing set of pictures of some of the world’s most dangerous roads.  There were quite a few in the US, including one in Washington State I didn’t know about, and two in New Zealand that I did know about.  Worth a bit of clicking.

Talking about dangerous things, an Air China 777 made an urgent emergency landing in Russian en route between China and the US, due to an indicator suggesting a fire in a cargo hold.  As soon as the plane came to a stop, the Flight Attendants popped open all the exits and commanded the passengers in no uncertain terms “Drop Everything.  Evacuate Immediately.  The Plane Will Explode.”

So, what happened next?  Oh, the usual pandemonium of screams and panicking people.  And then, passengers standing up, opening the overheads, and wrestling down their bulky heavy carry-on luggage to take with them when they went down the slides.

It is hard to fairly express the contempt and loathing one feels for such selfish and inappropriate actions.  Happily, the plane didn’t explode, and not everyone insisted on taking their belongings with them, but the ones who did should have been left in the freezing snow on the runway at Anadyr in Northern Siberia.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels





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